Western Kyoto ends in the pleasant, leafy suburb of ARASHIYAMA (嵐山). Set beside the Hozu-gawa, Arashiyama was originally a place for imperial relaxation, away from the main court in central Kyoto, where aristocrats indulged in pursuits such as poetry-writing and hunting, but the palaces were later converted into Buddhist temples and monasteries. The most famous of these is Tenryū-ji, noted for its garden, while the smaller, quieter temples have a more intimate appeal. In contrast with Tenryū-ji’s somewhat introspective garden, that of Ōkōchi Sansō – the home of a 1920s movie actor – is by turns secretive and dramatic, with winding paths and sudden views over Kyoto. For a break from temples and gardens, take the Torokko train up the scenic Hozu valley to Kameoka, from where boats ferry you back down the fairly gentle Hozu rapids.
A good way to explore the area is to rent a bike and spend a day pottering around the lanes and through magnificent bamboo forests; alternatively, it is possible to see some of the main sights by jinrikisha. If you’re pushed for time, you could consider combining Arashiyama with the sights of western Kyoto.